A couple of years ago I ran across an article that was about how college students were the fastest growing atheists groups in America. Of this group, the article stated that many of the ones that were turning to this way of thinking were coming out of the evangelical church. When asked why, many responded that growing up in the church they had heard their parents talk about God, but they had never seen the passion for God, nor did the church ever deal with real issues, but only talked about how great life is if you have God in your life. Those interviewed said that their life had not changed since they quit believing, so they concluded that there must be no God and there must be no absolute truth.
As I read this it opened my eyes to so many things. As a father to twins that were graduating high school and had been raised in the church all their lives, my first thought was have we been this kind of church? I mean have we only talked about God in shallow non-challenging ways? I asked myself have we dealt with issues that people are facing and have we shown a passion for living out the Word of God? This began to become a concern to me as, at that time, we were graduating one of the largest classes our youth group in South Decatur history. I made it my goal to not only to change this but also to do all that I could to see that these young people did not fall through the cracks and be stolen out of the church. I know what you are thinking, that is an impossible task because they are young and they are going to try things and there is nothing you can do about that. Wrong! As a church, we have something the world does not have, and that is the Holy Spirit. I began to pray and seek God for someone that could lead them and help them by answering the questions they had, and by making sure that they were a part of the church. After a great deal of prayer, God finally said to me one day “why not you”. I thought about all that I was doing in the church and in my life, and suddenly God spoke again and said, “Isn’t this more important”? So I began to talk to those that were in this group that we call Shift because they are shifting from one part of their life to another. I asked them what they wanted, and I was shocked at their reply. They shared with me that they wanted to come on a night where we could just study the Word of God verse by verse. They did not care if we had music or games, and they did not even care if the food was available. All they wanted was the word of God in an atmosphere of trust and openness.
The first week we started with just a few, but soon the group grew and grew. Not only did it grow in number, but it grew in a bond with one another. I then realized some things that I want to share with this group of 18 to 30-year-olds that maybe the church doesn’t know.
- They do life better when it is doing life together
I realize that these young people love the fact that they are doing life together. This happened after we had been doing the life group for a while. We took our first retreat together and in those three days, a bond was created. On the Friday night of the retreat, we built a fire and sat around singing praise songs to God and reading the scripture. The next thing you know people were opening up about life and we begin to realize that we all face the same struggles. After that weekend, Shift Group was never the same. The group began to live life together. Our Thursday night group became more open and honest and people began to ask real-life questions and share things they were struggling with and asking how others overcame these struggles.
- They want real answers to hard questions.
Another thing that I have learned is that this group wants to know the Word of God. I have come to realize that they are not turning to other religions or non-religions because they want to, but they are doing it because the church is not giving them real answers to the problems that they are facing. God began to deal with me and show me that this group wants to be challenged by the Word of God. If they are going to live for God, girl friend then they want it to be real, and they want it to mean something. During Thursday nights we deal with all kinds of issues from what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit, how do I keep from having sex with my girlfriend, to how do I witness to my friends that do not believe there is a God. We search the scripture together and we find answers through the Word of God. They want to know the truth and they want to know that the truth is absolute. They are not looking for how my life can be better, because many of them have lived a pretty good life up to now, but they want to know how their lives can make a difference, by serving God.
- They want to make an impact now
Another thing that I realize is that this group is tired of waiting for something to happen, but they are ready to see something happen. As we studied the book of Acts and we began to read about the early church, the question came up “why isn’t this happening in the church today”? Someone, other than me, spoke up and said, “Because we are not allowing the Holy Spirit to use us”. Another spoke up and said, “let’s start”. From there, they began to look for ways to share their faith, to worship with passion, to get involved in the church, and to live out a full Spirit-filled life. They want to make an impact and they want to change the world that they live in. They feel that serving God should be done with passion and excitement.
- They use technology more
Our group does group texting. Every day my phone is filled with group texts from this group, as they are encouraging one another and asking for prayer. Things like “I am about to talk to someone about Jesus, pray for me”, to hey I have a test coming up. There are words of encouragement, testimonies, and challenges to the group. When I think about this I can’t help but think about the early church and how they were together every day. Today we have a technology and this group uses that technology to live life together and to communicate, and the church has to use it as well. We call this living life together and helping one another through the struggles and challenges that life brings.
There is so much that I have learned from this group of amazing young people, and I am so proud to be a part of their lives. Through this, God has blessed our group and we have grown. Almost every young person that graduated from that class has come to the Shift group, and many of them are very involved. Some are still off in college but they attend when they are home and stay in touch through the Group text. Most of them are active in church and are sharing the gospel in our community. I believe that this is a great harvest field for the church of 2015, and we do not have to sit back and allow the enemy to take our young men and women. We have to show them that, through the Holy Spirit, there is passion in serving God and that we can do it together.
If you are interested in being a part of the Shift Group, we invite you to come Thursday nights @ 7 pm here at South Decatur Church. You can also learn more at our website http://www.southdecaturchurch.com